With survey showing support for overtime rules, where do GOP senators stand?

by Judy Conti, NELP Action

New Obama Administration regulations that ensure workers with salaries less than $47,476 a year are paid for overtime hours take effect Dec. 1, 2016. The Department of Labor estimates changes to the so-called “white-collar exemption” will entitle 4.2 million executive, professional and administrative employees to overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The Economic Policy Institute estimates an additional 8 million workers, who are likely presently entitled to overtime but not receiving it, will finally start getting the pay they deserve.

Across the country, more than 12 million workers will either see more money in their paychecks or more free time for themselves and their families as employers spread work around.  Where employers reassign work hours rather than pay time-and-a-half for overtime, part-time workers who want more hours will likely get them, and those who are unemployed will be able to apply for the new jobs that will be created by the redistribution of work.

This is good news for workers everywhere, and a boon for the middle class, which has eroded considerably in recent decades.  For employers, it will amount to no more than one-tenth of 1 percent of payrolls in industries across the country. With costs to employers so small but the benefits for working families so great, why would any rational policymaker oppose these overtime changes?

Yet, that’s precisely what’s happening, with Congressional Republicans leading the charge to try to kill the regulation.  A new poll shows they could pay a political price for their opposition.

The NELP Action Fund recently asked likely voters in seven battleground Senate states (Arizona, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) how they feel about the new overtime rules, and the results are staggering.  With percentages ranging from 76-81%, voters in these states favor the new regulations.  And these likely voters are prepared to vote to benefit their pocketbooks:  By margins of well over 2-to-1, voters are less likely to vote for candidates who oppose the new overtime regulations. The results aren’t even close.

With such overwhelming public support for the new rules, why are Congressional Republicans trying to block these long-overdue regulations? Because employers have been getting a good deal under the current weak regulations, which allow them to get away with denying overtime pay to workers with salaries as low as $23,660 per year, a wage that falls below the poverty level for a family of four.  CEOs and their cronies, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, don’t want to see a good thing go away.

Forty-four Senate Republicans, including John McCain of Arizona and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin are co-sponsoring a resolution that would block these regulations in their entirety AND would ban the Department of Labor from trying to update the regulations at all.  (House Republicans have also offered riders to the Department of Labor’s Appropriations bill that would block the new regulation.)

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), all of whom are up for re-election this year, have not signed onto this resolution, but neither have they offered any indication that they will support the new overtime regulations.

It is time for them to take a stand and buck the Republican party-line on the overtime regulations.  Are these Senators on the side of the overwhelming majority of their constituents, who know that restoring vitality to the nation’s overtime law is of significant importance not only to their families, but also for building an economy that works for everyone?  Or will these senators stand with the interests of big business, which wants the free ride to continue?

On a matter so crucial to middle class security and stability – to family incomes and family time – there’s no excuse for politicians of any ilk to duck the question of where they stand on overtime pay.  Voters across America strongly support the new rules and deserve to know which side their leaders are on. It’s time officials and all others who haven’t yet taken a stance on the overtime regulations answer the question.

Judy Conti is Federal Advocacy Coordinator at the NELP Action Fund.  This column was originally published on The Hill’s Congress Blog.

New Battleground Poll: Obama Administration Overtime Rule Overwhelmingly Popular and Republicans Who Oppose It Pay a Penalty

For Release: Thursday, September 1, 2016

Media Contact: Rob Duffey, [email protected], 646.828.0844



Washington, DC – A new poll shows that likely voters in 7 battleground states strongly support the Obama Administration rule expanding overtime pay, and that Republican incumbents who are trying to block the measure risk losing crucial support among voters. In May, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final overtime pay rule that expands and enhances eligibility for overtime for 12.5 million low-income and middle-class workers by raising the income threshold for full-time workers to $47,476 from $23,660.  But Congressional Republicans are leading a charge to block the regulations.

Forty-four Senate Republicans, including John McCain (R-AZ) and Ron Johnson (R-WI,) are co-sponsoring a resolution that would block these regulations in their entirety and ban the DOL from trying to update the regulations at all.  House Republicans have also offered riders to the DOL’s appropriations bill that would block the overtime rule.

“Americans are working more and more hours for less and less money – they need leaders who will fight for improved working conditions and expanded worker protections,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP) Action Fund, a project of the Advocacy Fund and the nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that commissioned the poll. “This poll clearly shows that incumbents who carry water for big businesses and attempt to deny working people their basic rights stand to lose crucial support at the polls.”

The poll, conducted Friday through Monday by Public Policy Polling, asked voters in seven states with competitive Senate races, including Arizona, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin whether they support the overtime measure. In each state, at least 76% of voters said they support the rule, which raises the salary threshold for the so-called “white-collar exemption” to guarantee that employees who are paid less than $47,476 a year will be entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, support for the rule was as high as 81%. A majority of respondents in all seven states, and by a more than two-to-one margin in all seven states, said that they were less likely to vote for Republican lawmakers who are attempting to block the new overtime rule, including 57% of voters in Pennsylvania and 55% of voters in Arizona.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which guarantees time-and-a-half pay for work exceeding 40 hours a week, exempts certain employees with high-level duties and salaries from overtime pay.  But the Department of Labor, which is responsible for updating the exemption rules, had over a nearly 40-year period consistently failed to adequately update the thresholds. As a result, the current threshold falls below the poverty line for a family of four. Nearly two million workers across the seven states would gain eligibility for overtime under the new rule if it goes into effect on Dec. 1, 2016.